Test Your Soil
Knowing what type of soil you have is probably the #1 item that you need to know before you start planting. Each soil type has different traits that, when known, will help your landscape flourish. The different types of soil are shown on the left. If you are not sure what type of soil you have, you can perform one of the following simple tests to find out:
SQUEEZE TEST: Grab a handful of damp soil and gently press it in your fist. If the soil is gritty and crumbly then it is sandy soil. Clay soil is sticky and slick, peaty soil is spongy, and silty soil is smooth.
WORM TEST: Earthworms are a great indicator of the overall health of your soil. They love the microbes and bacteria that make a healthy soil. You can dig a 1-foot wide by 1-foot
deep hole (in soil temp of 55 degrees or higher) placing the soil on a tarp. Sift through the soil and see how many worms you find. Another indicator of healthy soil and earthworms is
seen during heavy rains. Earthworms do not like a lot of water and will come out of the soil during heavy rains.
JAR TESTING: The jar test is a bit more precise than the other tests. To do this test, take soil from several places in your landscape and mix the samples together in a bucket removing sticks, roots, stones and other debris.
- Fill several mason jars ½ way with soil
- Fill the other ½ with water leaving a little room for shaking.
- You can add a pinch of salt (or 1 tsp.of liquid dish detergent) to help the soil particles separate.
- Tighten the lids and shake for several minutes.
- Let the solution settle for several hours.The sand will settle quickly to form the bottom layer. The next layer to settle is silt particles. Above silt are clay particles with organic matter floating on top.
- The color of the soil can tell you traits about the soil – light colors usually have less organicmaterial than dark soil and dark soil warms faster in the spring.
- A good % for healthy soil is 20%clay, 40% silt and 40% sand. Thiscombination is a loamy soil, which isa gardener’s best friend!
SOIL SAMPLING: Have your soiltested for acidity. You can test for PH levels with an at-home test kit, but you have to follow the kit instructions carefully. You can also have a professional take a sample and send to an agricultural lab for more accurate testing. Soil sampling will show you if your soil is acidic and what you need to add to your soil for the best growing conditions. This test will also help keep your fertilizing more effective and economical. Soil testing should be performed at least one time a year.